American Foreign Policy beyond the Election

Whether it is Donald Trump or Joe Biden, the next president of the United States will have to deal with the pandemic and the need for economic recovery.*

Elections in the United States always get the world’s attention. The reason is simple: most of those who make the decisions or participate in the world’s decision-making process still suffer the consequences of the bipolar world in which the Soviet Union and the United States struggled for dominance, or, at least, of a unipolar world dominated by the United States. Thus, if something happens in Washington, it matters to those who are in charge.

However, this situation is changing, and American elections are becoming less important. There are new powers and actors on the rise who are strengthening the ability to impact international affairs; the palace intrigue of the Chinese Communist Party’s congress is becoming just as important as American politics.

It is important to note that we will have to continue dealing with the United States regardless of who wins the election. We also have to bear in mind that the next president will serve for four years or possibly less. If we consider the state of the world stage in the medium term, it is clear that being the leader of the free world is a job that requires exceptional endurance, since the president is always 10 minutes away from the next international or domestic crisis.

Whoever becomes president will have to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and the need for economic recovery, not only of the United States, but of the West as whole. This situation demands a leader that thinks not only about making America great again, but about making the world great again, as it was when the liberal order was established.

Given the critical situation, there will be no honeymoon period with this election. Joe Biden will have to bring together a country which has been divided since the summer of 1968 when Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey ran for president. This division took the form of a series of bitter debates between conservative William Buckley and progressive Gore Vidal. The 2008 financial crisis, and the social breakdown that followed (which had Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at its center), allowed the conservative tea party movement to grow. This movement enabled Trump’s election and it will continue to exist even if Trump is not reelected.* The right-wing can also be revolutionary and an agent of change. Accordingly, if Biden wins, we will have a nonpopulist president immersed in a populist Congress.

Technological change will put pressure on the next American administration. The approaching interconnection among commerce, technology and security will continue to determine the agendas of multilateral and bilateral relationships. The relationship between the United States and China (whether it be good or bad) will spill onto the rest of the world, as can already be seen in the case of 5G networks in European markets and the restrictions that several members of NATO have imposed on China. With more or less intensity, we will witness conflict with Russia and China.

The time of competition among great powers is here to stay, and there are already several zones of influence in which commerce, culture and entertainment overlap. The proliferation of devices with sensors also entails increasing risk, since we have become dependent on technology, which is one of the areas in which the United States and China are rivals. It will be a turbulent time for the weak.

The next four years will not be a good time to pursue a long-term strategy. It is possible that the United States will withdraw politically to rebuild itself during the 2021-2024 term. Without Western leadership, China may play an essential role in the long-term situation of the countries in our region.

*Editor’s note: Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential on Nov 7.

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